three questions for

Alicia Chang

Nov. 8, 2021

Alicia Chang is Vice President of Berkeley Lab Foundation (BLF) as well as Deputy Chief Development Officer at Berkeley Lab. She joined the Lab in 2016, recognizing the significant impact that Lab science has, and eager to support that work. She shares some thoughts about how philanthropic funding can complement other sources of funding.

How does the Berkeley Lab Foundation support the Lab’s mission?

The Berkeley Lab Foundation connects philanthropic funders with the Lab to support priority research. Getting philanthropic funding can be challenging: it is about access and understanding philanthropists’ interests and goals. Philanthropists get many requests for funding. You can’t just call them directly; it’s about building a network to approach those funders. The Berkeley Lab Foundation can help develop the strategies and approach to philanthropy.

What are philanthropists looking for when they seek to fund research at the Lab?

Ultimately philanthropists want to support transformative research that will have a significant impact in their area of interest. Climate change, energy, health-related science and technology, and physics, are some examples of areas that generate philanthropists’ interest.

Berkeley Lab is a unique opportunity for many philanthropists. In addition to the scientific talent, philanthropists are attracted to the Lab because they can leverage the unique facilities and instruments at the Lab. There’s also the potential that their support can catalyze more funding from the DOE or other federal agencies.

Can you give an example of a project at the Lab that philanthropists have funded?

One good example of complementary funding from philanthropy is from the Gordon and Betty Moore Foundation. Tong Zhou, a scientist with the Accelerator Technology and Applied Physics (ATAP) Division, received a DOE early career award to conduct research on a new laser technique. But the DOE award didn’t pay for the development of equipment or tools. The Gordon and Betty Moore Foundation stepped in to fund the development of the tools. It was a perfect complement to the DOE funds.

Another example is an anonymous gift to support the Lab’s second endowed chair, the Presidential Directorship in the Global Cooling Efficiency Program. The philanthropist had read one of several white papers on the development of greener and more efficient room air conditioners written by ETA’s Nihar Shah. China, India and Southeast Asia will have a large greenhouse gas footprint as their population’s incomes increase. But affordable green air conditioners can help reduce that footprint.

Neither of these projects would have been funded without the engagement of the Berkeley Lab Foundation. Being able to help connect these important research projects with philanthropic funding was personally satisfying to me, and I'm looking forward to many more opportunities to do so.

Lab scientists and staff interested in reaching out to philanthropy for funding should contact the Berkeley Lab Foundation or the Office of the Chief Development Officer.